[This piece was co-written with Abba A. Solomon, the author of The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein's Speech "The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews."]
Over the weekend, the New York Times sent out a clear signal: the mass slaughter of civilians is acceptable when the Israeli military is doing the killing.
Under the headline “Israel’s War in Gaza,” the most powerful newspaper in the United States editorialized that such carnage is necessary. The lead editorial in the July 19 edition flashed a bright green light — reassuring the U.S. and Israeli governments that the horrors being inflicted in Gaza were not too horrible.
From its first words, the editorial methodically set out to justify what Israel was doing.
“After 10 days of aerial bombardment,” the editorial began, “Israel sent tanks and ground troops into Gaza to keep Hamas from pummeling Israeli cities with rockets and carrying out terrorist attacks via underground tunnels.”
The choice of when to date the start of the crisis was part of the methodical detour around inconvenient facts.
For instance, no mention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s June 30 announcement that the “human animals” of Hamas would “pay” after three Israeli teenagers kidnapped in Israeli-controlled territory in the West Bank were found dead. No mention of the absence of evidence that Hamas leadership was involved in those murders.
Likewise, absent from the editorializing sequence was Israel’s June “crackdown” in the West Bank, with home raids, area closures, imprisonment of hundreds of Hamas party activists including legislators.
Most of all, the vile core of the Times editorial was its devaluation of Palestinian lives in sharp contrast to Israeli lives.
The Times editorial declared that Hamas leaders “deserve condemnation” for military actions from civilian areas in the dense Gaza enclave — but Netanyahu merited mere expressions of “concern” about “further escalation.” Absent from the editorial was any criticism of Israel’s ongoing bombardment of homes, apartment blocks, hospitals, beaches and other civilian areas with U.S.-supplied ordinance.
At the time, there had been one Israeli death from the hostilities — and at least 260 deaths among Gazans as well as injuries in the thousands. The contrast illuminates a grotesque difference in the Times‘ willingness to truly value the humanity of Israelis and Palestinians.
In the morally skewed universe that the Times editorial board evidently inhabits and eagerly promulgates, Hamas intends to “terrorize” Israeli citizens while Israel merely intends to accomplish military objectives by dropping thousands of tons of bombs on Palestinian people in Gaza.
A keynote of the editorial came when it proclaimed: “There was no way Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was going to tolerate the Hamas bombardments, which are indiscriminately lobbed at Israeli population centers. Nor should he.”
While sprinkling in a handwringing couple of phrases about dead and wounded civilians, the editorial had nothing to say in condemnation of the Israeli force killing and maiming them in large numbers.
Between the lines was a tacit message to Israel: Kill more. It’s OK. Kill more.
And to Israel’s patrons in Washington: Stand behind Israel’s mass killing in Gaza. Under the unfortunate circumstances, it’s needed.
When the editorial came off the press, the Israeli military was just getting started. And no doubt Israeli leaders, from Netanyahu on down, were heartened by the good war-making seal of approval from the New York Times.
After all, the most influential media voice in the United States — where the government is the main backer of Israel’s power — was proclaiming that the mass killing by the Israeli military was regrettable but not objectionable.
The night after the Times editorial went to press, the killing escalated. Among the calamities: the Israeli military shelled the Gaza neighborhood of Shejaiya throughout the night with nonstop tank fire that allowed no emergency services to approach. Eyewitness media reports from Shejaiya recounted scenes of “absolute devastation” with bodies strewn in the streets and the ruins.
Two days after the editorial reached Times newsprint, over 150 more were counted dead in Gaza. No media enabler was more culpable than the editorializing voice of the Times, which had egged on the Israeli assault at the end of a week that began with the United Nations reporting 80 percent of the dead in Gaza were civilians.
The Times editorial was in step with President Obama, who said — apparently without intended irony — that “no country can accept rockets fired indiscriminately at citizens.” Later, matching Israeli rationales for a ground invasion, the president amended his verbiage by saying: “No nation should accept rockets being fired into its borders or terrorists tunneling into its territory.”
An important caveat can be found in the phrases “no country” and “no nation.” The stateless people who live in Gaza – 70 percent of whom are from families expelled from what’s now southern Israel – are a very different matter.
By the lights of the Oval Office and the New York Times editorial boardroom, lofty rhetoric aside, the proper role of Palestinian people is to be slaughtered into submission.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Riley v. California held that the police must obtain a warrant before searching the cell phone of someone who has been arrested. This decision applied the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution — which prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures” — to take account of vast advances in technology since the time the Constitution was written.
What should Riley tell us about how the development of technology affects other constitutional protections? In particular, how does the rise of the Internet affect the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to free speech?
The Court’s decision in Riley rested on a simple premise: Cell phones are different from ordinary physical objects. The latter may be searched following a lawful arrest. The former, after Riley, may not. That is because, to use the Court’s own words, “Modern cell phones, as a category, implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet, or a purse.”
So if searches of cell phones are different from searches of ordinary physical objects, then should online speech be analyzed differently from offline speech? The logical answer is yes. Just as cell phones are different from ordinary physical objects, the Internet is dramatically different from earlier speech mediums. And the Court should acknowledge those differences in determining the scope of First Amendment protection for speech.
The differences between offline and online communication closely parallel Riley‘s distinction between ordinary physical objects and cell phones. One such distinction is quantitative. As the Court wrote in Riley: “One of the most notable distinguishing features of modern cell phones is their immense storage capacity. Before cell phones, a search of a person was limited by physical realities and tended as a general matter to constitute only a narrow intrusion on privacy.” This quantitative distinction extends to online speech. A large distribution of fliers might reach a few thousand people; in contrast, a public posting anywhere on the Internet can be read by billions. For instance, reddit.com — where anyone can post content — reports between 15 and 20 million unique visitors per month.
Riley also noted qualitative differences between ordinary physical objects and cell phones. The Court stated: “The term ‘cell phone’ is itself misleading shorthand; many of these devices are in fact minicomputers that also happen to have the capacity to be used as a telephone. They could just as easily be called cameras, video players, rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps, or newspapers.” That is, cell phones “collect in one place many distinct types of information — an address, a note, a prescription, a bank statement, a video.”
The Internet likewise enables qualitatively different speech. Internet speech incorporates linking, which — not unlike the cell phone in Riley — aggregates a great quantity of information in a single place and creates a close connection between original and linked material. A much greater quantity of Internet speech is anonymous, and research indicates that anonymity breeds incivility as well as harassment and threats, which research has found disproportionately affect women. As many people have learned the hard way, the combination of the Internet and other electronic forms of communication enable the viral spread of information in a manner vastly different from people passing copies of a news article from hand to hand or calling up their neighbors to spread a juicy bit of gossip. And Internet speech is often both permanent and easily retrieved in a matter of seconds using a search engine, in stark contrast to the effort required to locate a yellowed news clipping stored in a box in the attic.
The First Amendment should take account of these differences between online and offline speech, as the following examples illustrate.
Consider, first, the doctrine of obscenity. The Supreme Court held in Miller v. California that speech is obscene only if “the average person, applying contemporary community standards,” would believe that the allegedly obscene item appeals to the “prurient interest,” or an excessive and unhealthy interest in sexual matters. The Court specified that contemporary community standards should be evaluated locally: that is, what counts as prurient in Topeka might not in San Francisco. Yet while perhaps locally-calibrated evaluation made sense in 1973, when Miller was decided, the standard requires updating now that an image posted on the Internet is theoretically viewable by anyone in the world.
Second, the Supreme Court will soon take up the question of whether and how the First Amendment protects arguably threatening speech posted on the Internet. The Court recently granted review in Elonis v. United States, a case involving a man who was convicted under a federal law that criminalizes “true threats” after he posted disturbing rap lyrics about his ex-wife on Facebook. The lyrics included such statements as:
There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts. Hurry up and die, bitch, so I can bust this nut all over your corpse from atop your shallow grave. I used to be a nice guy but then you became a slut.
The defendant’s lyrics also involved a number of other violent statements, including a reference to “making a name for himself” with a kindergarten shooting and a fantasy about killing an F.B.I. agent. An issue in the case is whether the statements were “true threats” — in particular, whether the defendant’s claim that he did not intend his statements as serious threats should matter. Here again, the distinct qualities of the Internet make a difference. Because the Internet filters out voice and demeanor cues, online statements provide less information about the seriousness of the statement, and are thus more likely to be reasonably interpreted as threats. Likewise, because the Internet is not tied to a particular physical location, disturbing statements are more alarming to a reasonable person: one doesn’t know whether the person making the threats is in a different state or in the next room. The Court should take these realities into account next term in fashioning a “true threats” doctrine for the digital age.
Third, the Internet medium poses novel considerations when it comes to First Amendment doctrine governing hate speech. The Court’s past decisions on that issue have been mixed: in RAV v. City of St. Paul, the Court unanimously struck down a hate-crime ordinance that had been interpreted to criminalize cross-burning, while in Virginia v. Black, it upheld a statute that criminalized cross-burning so long as “intent to intimidate” was proven. Yet there are good reasons for the Court to analyze Internet hate speech differently. First, the Internet facilitates the gathering of like-minded individuals united by their hatred of particular groups. Second, the anonymity of the Internet facilitates easy expression of hateful ideas. And finally, Internet hate speech sometimes leads to serious real-world consequences: consider, for example, the ease with which al-Qaeda’s hateful anti-American sentiments facilitate recruitment of new members.
Fourth, the phenomenon of “revenge porn” — the distribution of intimate pictures of another person without that person’s consent — is another instance in which First Amendment analysis should take account of the unique characteristics of Internet speech. Some have argued that new state laws criminalizing revenge porn are, in at least some instances, constitutionally sound and good policy; others are more ambivalent. But broadcasting intimate images to the public via the Internet is quantitatively and qualitatively different from, say, distribution of such images by mail. I do not mean to imply that offline non-consensual distribution could not also be prohibited consistent with the U.S. Constitution. But First Amendment analysis of statutes criminalizing Internet revenge porn should not ignore the real-world differences associated with online distribution. The Internet allows easy dissemination of large quantities of revenge porn, facilitates the viral spread of such material, and potentially preserves the material online indefinitely, with devastating consequences for victims.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Riley is a timely acknowledgment of the need for Fourth Amendment doctrine to take account of developments in technology. It’s time for the Court to do the same with other areas of constitutional law, starting with the First Amendment.
Bill Maher used his closing monologue on the July 18 episode of “Real Time With Bill Maher” to take a jab at militarized police culture in America. He listed different small towns that use military-style tanks and “toys” in their police departments. “Once you start dressing and equipping people like an occupying army, they start acting like one,” he said. “Every day there’s another story in the paper about cops beating innocent people.” He noted that police culture isn’t just borrowing equipment and machinery from the army, but also a “philosophy of overwhelming force,” citing the rise in SWAT team invasions and police brutality. Watch the whole monologue above.
Israeli military must steer clear of areas housing journalists while launching its attack on Gaza, the Committee to Protect Journalists warned on Friday.
At least three journalists have been injured so far by Israeli airstrikes that hit buildings with news outlets inside, CPJ reported. The organization called the threat to media a “violation of international law” and demanded they stop.
“The Israel Defense Forces know where media outlets are located in Gaza and must ensure that they are not hit as part of its offensive,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said. “Attacking media outlets is a violation of international law and denies journalists their right to protection as civilians in war zone.”
The injured journalists include Watania Media Agency cameraman Muhammad Shabat, who was hospitalized on Friday after an airstrike hit a building in Gaza City where he and other Palestinian media outlets were reportedly staying. On Wednesday, Sawt al-Watan radio host Ahmad al-Ajala and station correspondent Tariq Hamdieh were also treated for injuries after a missiles struck their building and ruined the station’s equipment.
Last week, CPJ and several other press freedom groups spoke out against the killing of Hamid Shihab, a driver for Media 24 whose life was taken when an Israeli rocket hit his car. The vehicle was marked as a press car with the words “TV” in red. CPJ once again stressed that attacking media is a “direct contravention of international law.”
What a horrible day. Israel has begun a ground offensive in Gaza, the White House is on lockdown, and a plane has been shot down in Ukraine. Today’s news piles on an already shaking landscape of ISIS in Iraq, immigrant children suffering on the U.S. border, and still missing Nigerian girls.
My Twitter feed has been raging with information and disinformation today, but underneath the diatribes I have been struck by a sense of despair and disbelief that the world can unravel this fast, and anger at our sense of impotence.
But we are not impotent, and this is not “happening to us.” We, the human race, are doing this to ourselves. These aren’t natural disasters, or “acts of God.” It’s just us, humans, having completely lost our humanity. We are warring, and hurting, and intentionally or unintentionally killing one another through direct assault or indifference and neglect.
We have forgotten that we belong to one another, that we are connected, that we are all sisters and brothers, that we need one another.
Today, right now, I want us to take back our power, and begin to mend together what has been ripped apart.
It is too late to bring back the innocent lives that have been lost so far in the Middle East, but it is not too late to stop the killing that is happening now.
It is too late to bring back the innocent plane passengers who died in Ukraine, but as a human race we can insist that this is unacceptable and not let the incident be a springboard for even more violence and hatred.
It’s too late to reverse the death and destruction, but it’s never too early to advocate for peace and life.
It is hard to know what to do, but, even within this dark day, we need to continue to insist on the possibility of peace — and to have that start with ourselves. If all I can do today is pray for peace and the well-being of both Israelis and Palestinians and refuse to accept that war is inevitable or hate is natural, that will be a start. If I can pray for the people in that plane and try not to be swept into a rage calling for revenge, if I can make myself open to being an instrument of peace, then that will be a start. That is one, very small, way that I can respond to this horrible day.
Jill Abramson sat down for her first broadcast interview about her controversial firing from the New York Times on Wednesday. Speaking to Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, she opened up about the double standard she said women often face in the workplace.
After months of mostly silence, Abramson is embarking on a string of interviews, speaking to outlets as varied as Cosmopolitan magazine and New York’s local radio station WABC. On Thursday, she is set to talk to Katie Couric.
Abramson continued her habit of emphasizing the fact that she was fired as editor of the Times. “I’ve devoted my whole career to truth-telling, and why hide that?” she told Van Susteren. The host asked her if she had seen the firing coming.
“No, but I would say that I had my bumps and some difficult situations with some of the people who I worked for,” Abramson said. She added that it was “hurtful” to be fired, especially since her firing was “so public.”
Van Susteren then asked her about the elephant in the room: her gender. Abramson’s status as the first female executive editor of the Times—and the highly charged debate over whether criticism of her leadership style was sexist—was perhaps the biggest point of contention in the days following her ouster.
Abramson declined to say whether she thought a male editor in her situation would be fired, but she then added that there was a double standard for women in the workplace.
“Women in leadership roles are scrutinized constantly and sometimes differently than men, and qualities that are seen as showing leadership or being assertive in men are seen — there are certain code words, ‘strident, ‘too tough,’ whatever, and that’s just the world we live in,” she said.
She described herself as a “hard-charging editor.” Some, she said, “didn’t like that style. For a lot of people they liked it. They liked that I was kind of a stand-up editor.”
Hillary Clinton talked about the 2016 election on ‘The Daily Show” Tuesday night, and even took host Jon Stewart’s career aptitude test.
When asked if she enjoys “constant, non-stop criticism,” Clinton said she has at least come to “expect, survive, live through” it.
“It sounds like to me you’ve declared for the presidency,” Stewart concluded to loud audience cheers.
Later addressing the backlash to her previous claim that she and former President Bill Clinton were once “dead broke,” Clinton acknowledged, “That was an inartful use of words, obviously.”
Clinton added that she’s worried young people today won’t have the same opportunities that her generation did.
“We believed that we could pretty much make our way up the ladder and now I think a lot of particularly young people don’t believe that anymore. And that bothers me a lot,” Clinton said.
Clinton has made numerous television appearances to promote her latest book, “Hard Choices,” sitting for interviews with Fox News, ABC, NBC, CBS and NPR. She also participated in a town hall hosted by CNN.
The former secretary of state also faced a lot of scrutiny throughout her publicity tour as sales have dropped sharply since the book’s release. Clinton’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, gave her an almost $14 million advance and shipped out 1 million copies of the book to stores. At the current rate of sales, it will take months for those copies to be sold.
The CNBC reporter whose rant helped launch America’s tea party movement was told off Monday amid — what else — one of his epic rants.
As Rick Santelli shouted from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade against the Federal Reserve’s policies on “Fast Money Halftime Report,” CNBC reporter Steve Liesman took him down a peg.
“It’s impossible for you to have been more wrong, Rick,” Liesman said. “Your call for inflation, the destruction of the dollar, the failure of the U.S. economy to rebound… The higher interest rates never came, the inability of the U.S. to sell bonds never happened, the dollar never crashed Rick, there isn’t a single one that’s worked for you.”
“I wasn’t wrong on inflation,” Santelli declared. “I didn’t know policy would be so bad that we’d get no velocity after five-and-a-half years.”
By velocity, he basically means that no one is spending money, even though the Fed’s QE program has, in a sense “printed” a lot of it. Santelli has claimed before that he didn’t actually predict high inflation. As Business Insider has pointed out, the record says otherwise.
“Every single bit of advice you gave would’ve lost people money,” Liesman told Santelli. “There is no piece of advice you’ve given that’s worked.”
By Mark Green
We know about the six-year curse, POTUS’ polls and vulnerable red-state Democrats. But as jobs and the ACA rebound — and the House grouses about borders, wages and IUDs — can Democrats run well this fall against a Do-Nothing/Know-Nothing GOP? Lamarche and R. Christie debate these issues, Boehner’s lawsuit and the president’s Wahlbergian taunts.
*On the Border Disorder. Ron Christie says that “both sides are complicit but Obama’s mostly to blame because he sent signals to illegals to come here and they wouldn’t get deported.” Wait, hasn’t he deported 2 million in five-and-a-half years? Ron insists that clearly people in Central America getting some new message given this surge of children.
Gara LaMarche counters that there are humanitarian crises all over the world as refugees seek better lives and/or escape violence, like the extraordinary violence in these countries of origin. And if House Republicans had scheduled a vote on the Senate bill for comprehensive immigration reform, perhaps this crisis and future ones could have been averted… not to mention that the 2008 Bush-Feinstein bipartisan amendment requires due process hearings in these cases to reduce human trafficking.
Is Senator Lindsay Graham right to predict that if the GOP doesn’t agree to some version of Obama’s proposed $3.7 billion package to expedite hearings and shelter the children, they’ll get politically blamed? Gara agrees — how can they credibly scream the situation is dire and then block a solution? Ron thinks that “eventually Congress will have to put politics aside” because of the dislocated children to do something along the lines of the Obama proposal.
Last: we listen to Obama’s snarky retort quoting Mark Wahlberg’s line in The Departed when a cop on stakeout loses his suspect and asks who Wahlberg is: “I’m the guy doing my job — you must be the other guy!” Given how the GOP has demonized and rebuffed everything Obama does, can his jokey sarcasm work this fall to make the case against a unproductive #DoNothing/KnowNothingHouse?
“Maybe,” says Lamarche, brilliantly avoiding any possible contradiction. “No,” says Christie, who thinks it unserious and off-putting. “The Senate is gone [to the Republicans].” “Yes” says the Host since the House GOP is taking a risk by appeasing its fringe base while rejecting urgent and popular change like immigration reform, the minimum wage, gun safety, infrastructure spending… instead suing the president, in his words, “for doing something while they do nothing.”
Host: Two questions: how can it be a crisis of border security since the escaping children have nearly all interacted with border patrols; and would the GOP really have deported Dreamers who have lived all their lives in U.S. back to countries of their parents?
*On the Hobby Lobby Aftermath. Ron applauds a result compelled by the bipartisan Religious Freedom and Restoration Act of 1994 signed by President Clinton since government can provide this service without forcing the owners to violate their religious conscience. But the law never anticipated that corporations, as opposed to actual people, would possess religious rights. (Yes owners may pray for profits, but souls…?)
Gara fears this apparently small ruling could open up a large loophole allowing any owner to refuse to comply with a law that they “sincerely claim” offends their religion — “you don’t get to choose your own science.” For example, what about Jehovahs Witnesses opposed to all inoculations… Mormans who at one time wouldn’t admit Blacks… many Orthodox Jews currently want to segregate women and men in religious and perhaps commercial establishments? Or more immediately, what if Hobby Lobby refused to serve the LGBT community?
Did the Religious Right win in court but lose at the ballot box? Gara thinks so because the huge swing voting bloc of single and suburban women won’t like the GOP telling them that their bosses can overrule their reproductive rights. Ron rejects such a “war on women” as “despicable” demagoguery. But there was a large gender gap of 11 points favoring Obama over Romney… and it’s hard to see how Democrats can’t and wouldn’t use this ruling of five Republican justices in their favor this fall.
Also, five catholic men. Is that a fair point to discuss or a dangerous road to go down? Ron and Gara agree that there’s no specific evidence the majority’s religious beliefs affected their decision (though Bill Maher reminds listeners how openly religious Scalia is, including his belief in an actual Devil). But on the other hand, they agree that it’s acceptable to note that all three women justices — Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor — agreed to Ginsburg’s angry dissent.
*On 6.1 Percent Unemployment. Remember jobs and growth? Voters do… and will. And remember all the pundits saying a few months ago that an awful economy and failing ACA would destroy Democratic prospects this Fall?
Does the 6.1 percent unemployment rate and record Dow change that? Christie thinks the BLS statistics were awful given the number of people who left the workforce or took part-time jobs — but since that was likely because the ACA meant they could get health insurance without working, is that a bad thing? While Lamarche argues that Democrats should not appear over-enthusiastic and run on a “Morning in America” theme, they will and should say the economy is a helluva lot better than under Bush as an example of how they’re “on your side.”
Quick Takes: Romney and Israel
What does the panel think of Rep. Chaffetz’s prediction that his friend Mitt Romney is likely to make a third bid for the presidency in 2016? Gara and Ron agree that it’s possible due to the relatively weak Republican field given Chris (no relation) Christie’s woes and Jeb Bush’s lack of intensity. Then Ron makes news: “watch out for my former boss Gov. John Kasich,” since he’s from Ohio-Ohio-Ohio and is likely to win reelection easily.
As for the Hamas-Israel military exchanges (the show is taped as Israelis troops are amassing on the Gaza border), there’s a consensus that there’s no moral equivalence. Whatever the ancient claims on this sliver of land amidst 22 Arab countries, Hamas certainly provoked the crisis by not repudiating the murder of three Israeli teens and then launching rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas.
- An IDF general said on CNN’s The Situation Room that “Israel uses weapons to protect civilians while Hamas uses civilians to protect weapons.”
- Atlantic senior writer (and BSN regular) David Frum tweeted this insight: “Hamas: ‘We’re the victims because our indiscriminate rocket fire in the war we started isn’t killing as many civilians as we expected.”
- Still, Israel has to carefully weigh the political, military and human consequences of a very disproportionate response that kills a large number of civilians in the search for rocket launchers.
Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.
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Fear not, cupcake fans: Crumbs Bake Shop will live to see another day.
Marcus Lemonis, the owner of Dippin’ Dots and host of CNBC reality show “The Profit,” is stepping in to save the recently closed cupcake chain, according to a press release published late Friday night.
Lemonis and Fischer Enterprises L.L.C. formed a joint venture, Lemonis Fischer Acquisition Company, which plans to acquire the shops.
Crumbs will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to the Chicago Tribune, before reopening as a private company and reinstating its employees.
“I truly believe in the Crumbs brand and am excited to help the Company enter into a new chapter in its history,” said Lemonis in the press release.
Earlier this week, Crumbs abruptly announced that it would close all 48 of its stores across 10 states.
The investors acknowledged that Crumbs’ “had historically implemented a retail expansion strategy that was ultimately proven unsustainable.” Now, the future owners say they will expand the company to a more wide-ranging sweets shop, rather than just a store that sells only cupcakes.